Saturday, July 26

The Week Ahead

We decided to take a day off from the house project.  We've basically worked on it every day since I bought it last month and my partner is getting burned out.  I have a movie theater mystery shop that we will do this afternoon.  Then we plan to visit the library before stopping at Lowe's to buy a few supplies for the house.

Speaking of the house project, it's going well (pictures coming soon), but there is so much left to do.  We are going to move in as soon as the living room is finished.  When we do move in, only two bedrooms and the living room will be completely done.  So much has been going on:  in addition to new floors and painting, I've repaired faulty plumbing, replaced blown fuses, serviced and cleaned the air conditioning unit, replaced interior doors, and done a thorough cleaning.  We've been able to do most of the work ourselves.  I did call an electrician out to replace the main breaker and check the integrity of the electrical system.  I'm also hiring someone to install new entry doors.  One of the largest unexpected expenses will happen in the coming weeks:  we are having the house fumigated to treat an active termite infestation.  I was under the impression when I bought the house that it had been treated already, but apparently not (and I did not require any termite bond or inspection because I really wanted this house).  This alone will cost $1,900 and we can't be in the home for three days.  They are putting a tent over the house to treat it.

Next week I have a few restaurant shops lined up.  On Friday I have a local route of gas station audits.  Saturday we fly to Vegas.  We are working a 6 day hospitality event in Laguna Beach, CA and then will spend five days playing in Vegas.  The work basically pays for a free vacation, plus it gives us a break while the house is being fumigated.

Things are coming together quickly.  My goal is to move everything into the new house in mid-August.  The remaining improvements can be made as my bank account recovers from all this spending I've been doing.

Monday, July 21

Update on Negotiating High Medical Bills

During our Las Vegas vacation I had a health scare when I swallowed a piece of meat down the wrong tube.  In trying to cough it up I got bronchitis, but before that diagnosis I was concerned I was choking.  The urgent care doctor refused to do anything (after charging me $100 to refer me to the Spring Valley Hospital  ER!) because he was concerned about the severity of my symptoms.  I went to the Emergency Room and sat in a room for three hours.  A nurse took my blood, a technician performed a chest X-Ray, and my vital signs were monitored.  The cost of those services was nearly $5,000 (that's not a typo!), but after the insurance benefit, I was responsible for almost $3,000.  Since I have a high-deductible plan, the only benefit of having insurance in a case like this is that I pay a lower rate that the insurer has negotiated.  I am responsible for 100% of the bill until my medical costs exceed $6,500 in a calendar year.

After receiving the first of three bills,  my initial thought was that an error had been made.  No one pays $5,000 for bloodwork and a single X-ray, do they?  I called the hospital's billing department.  One trick they use to discourage you is make you wait on hold.  It was 40 minutes before I spoke with a live person, and every 20 seconds I was encouraged by a recorded voice to make payment online or through the automated system.  When I finally spoke with someone, I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.  The employee was not helpful at all, insisting that my bill was accurate and that they absolutely do no discounting.  She did offer me a convenient payment plan, but she missed the point that I thought they were ripping me off.

Yes, I said it.  The Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas ripped me off.  But rather than accept this nonsense, I did some research online.  I called in reinforcements in the form of a medical bill negotiator (I used My Medical Negotiator, but there are a couple of options out there).  It took some time, but the person I worked with, Dennis Dobecki, was able to negotiate a 30% discount.  That's not a huge amount, but it saved me $400 on the ER bill.

I also submitted the bill I received from the doctor who "cared" for me.  I saw him for about three minutes, and he never laid a finger on me.  Those three minutes were billed at $1,481.  I haven't paid it yet, but am crossing my fingers that My Medical Negotiator can work some magic on it, too.